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January 08, 2007


Not entirely relevant but tangential to the article: I grew up in the Fresno area -- Fresno being the city that houses the largest Hmong community in the U.S., iirc. I can remember reading about a distinct lack of translators and other help for the Hmong community there -- even the largest in the nation. I can also remember the ranting of my mother and sister against the "boat people." It disgusted me even as a child.

I only wish that this country were the bright and ideal and welcoming place we are taught it is.

Tim F. at Balloon Juice adds:

Naturally it gets worse. At least most refugees get a hearing; applicants from Iraq have virtually no chance because our government apparently prefers to pretend that the crisis doesn't exist.

Oh, yes. This happens a lot, a whole lot.

Not always--some immigration judges don't interpret the law to bar Liberian rape victims, etc., and do grant asylum. I actually helped draft a decision like this last year, arguing that performing forced labor at pain of death or torture was not "material support". And DHS did not appeal (they usually don't appeal immigration judges' asylum grants). But I think more often than not these people lose their cases in the immigration courts, and it's far worse when it comes to refugee admissions overseas.

Last time this came up in the Senate it lost 80-20 but that's partly because people had no clue what was going on. Arlen Specter seemed genuinely convinced that if we changed this we'd have to let Hamas terrorists into the country--which is absurdly wrong, he even acknowledged this later. Specter is often clueless like that, but even reliable people like Dick Durbin voted against it. I think that if people actually realize what's going on, it's just not a hard call. If Gary Bauer and me are on the same side...

And if we're going to admit anything even resembling a decent # of Iraqi refugees we're going to have to fix this as well as lifting the quota. Take a look at this article:

However, a federal regulation that was passed as part of the Patriot Act forbids the entry of immigrants determined to have provided material support to the enemy. Paying ransom to kidnappers has been interpreted as providing material aid, Kassab said. Even the Iraqi citizen who helped locate U.S. Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch and aided in her rescue has been denied entry because he had to pose as being sympathetic to the Iraqis, Kassab said.

Kassab told the story of a Chaldean woman he identified only as Miriam, whose house was occupied for a week by insurgents. They forced Miriam and her daughters, ages 16 and 15, to cook for them and give them directions. On the last day of their stay, the six insurgents raped Miriam and her daughters and told them they would be killed if they ever said anything. After the ordeal, Miriam and her daughters fled to another country -- the name of which Miriam did not want disclosed for fear of the insurgents' revenge.

The family was denied U.S. entry because the cooking and directions under duress were construed by U.S. officials as providing material support.


If Jessica Lynch's rescuer and a Christian woman who was raped are barred for having given "material support to a terrorist organization," imagine what chance a 20-year-old Sunni or Shi'a man has.

Are we really that afraid?

Yes, unfortunately.

Have you forgotten the nutcases who wanted to send the Statue of Liberty back to France (poem and all)? I know that link is a parody, BTW: the 'action group' has disappeared and their site has been taken over by ecommerce snake oil salesmen.

Do we really want to scratch out those words, and replace them with a sign that says: No longer valid? Are we really that afraid?

I read somewhere (sorry, can't remember where) that when college students were presented with the Bill of Rights rewritten in modern English, and asked what they thought of granting those rights to everyone in the US, they recoiled in horror and declared them way too radical.

The idea of the US as a country open to all hasn't been true for what, a century?

Have you forgotten the nutcases who wanted to send the Statue of Liberty back to France (poem and all)?

Would they perhaps be from Oklahoma?

Are we really that afraid?

What dr ngo said.

Does anyone in this administration remember this?

Did anyone in this administration ever know it, or believe in it, in the first place?

Thanks -

Do we really want to scratch out those words, and replace them with a sign that says: No longer valid? Are we really that afraid?

Anybody who still, in 2007, self-identifies as a Republican would happily discard those ideals. Xenophobia and power-worship are pretty much all they have left.

sglover: I can easily imagine a world in which the Democrats had gone horribly wrong in some way that seemed to me not to be a necessary outgrowth of their deepest principles, and in which I identified as a Democrat while hating their present manifestation.

"Are we really that afraid?

What dr ngo said."

For some reason these comments are really annoying me (I may just be undercaffeinated here)...yes, if the policy requires a certain level of fear, and we are doing it, obviously, by definition, we are that afraid. But are we so afraid that it would be politically suicidal for the new Congress to fix this? No. Absolutely not. For one thing most people just don't pay attention to obscure clauses in asylum refugee law. To the extent that they start it ought to be fairly easy to convince people that we shouldn't treat terrorists' victims as terrorists, or US allies as terrorists. That's just not a hard sell. And if you put it on the right bill I don't think it would even be vetoed.

Will the new Congress fix it? I don't know. I'd put the odds at well under 50%. But if they don't I wouldn't conclude that it was impossible for them because voters weere too afraid. Voters don't know and have never been asked about this, really. If President Bush can put in 20,000 or 30,000 more troops in Iraq with the support of 12-36% of the public (depending on how you phrase the question) on the leading issue of the day, the Democrats ought to be able to muster the votes to fix an obscure clause in the INA.

But are we so afraid that it would be politically suicidal for the new Congress to fix this? No.

I don't know Katherine. Now that I take the time to think about it for more than two seconds I would guess the stringent standards or "interpretations" have more to do with bureaucratic a$$ covering than anything else, though partly driven by fear ("I don't want to be the one to let a terrorist in the country").

But I can see the rightwing noise machine revving up on this now, "Democrats are letting terrorists into the country to kill your babies and kittens!!!1!!1!" Not that that should be reason not to try and do something, of course, but it would be an appeal to the populace's fear (and would likely work, IMHO).

I'm with Katherine.

This can be fixed, and there is no reason to fear political repercussions. Not only is it not a hot-button issue, but with just a bit of well-directed publicity it can be turned into a positive. Notice that the article mentions that some conservative groups are also appalled at these policies.

If the Democratic leadership is unwilling to take this on, and is intimidated by the kind of thing Ugh talks about, then I despair.

I hate this attitude of resignation (you say it's no reason not to try--but if the Democrats don't you'll think they had little choice, right?). THIS is going to swing an election against us--either a house of Congress or the Presidency--in 2008? Yeah, right. Look, I pay close attention to fine points of asylum law, and I can tell you, the American public by and large neither knows nor cares. And considering that when Gary f*cking Bauer learns about this he takes my side...

If they say we're helping the terrorists kill kittens, we look them in the eye and say: you're lying. And you are sending victims of terrorist atrocities back for more of the same. Considering that the merits are completely on our side, I think we ought to be able to fight them to a draw among the tiny fraction of the population that sees coverage of the issue on C-Span, the daily newspapers, NPR, etc. (I doubt network or Cable TV news would even cover it.)

The good guys are so timid and fearful, and then they assume this air of superiority: we enlightened few would *like* to do the right thing, but those provincial, immoral stupid voters just won't allow it.

This is not, by the way, directed at you--I recognize that you say we should do this anyway. It's actually largely directed at Joe Biden, and the fact that the Democratic Congress, having been elected because of the President's failures on the war, is probably going to sit back and let him send in 30,000 more troops so the Republicans won't say mean things about us. But--while I recognize that they don't listen to us anyway--I don't think liberals voters making excuses for this kind of behavior helps.

Let's get down to brass tacks. The purpose of putting the Democrats in power was to fix (or prevent) problems like this from happening in the first place. One of the (myriad) problems of the Republican majority was that they decided that it was more important to stay in power than to do what they believed ought to be done. I want politicians in office who worry more about doing what's right (as God gives them to see the right) than in what might happen to their reelection chances.

As Katherine notes, the facts are on our side. Let's not preemptively surrender for fear of demagogues.

Bernard, Katherine, Andrew - you are all right, of course. I apologize for my undue pessimism and general discouragement.

Aside for Amanda: we just elected Blong Xiong as our councilman in District One. But yes, you're right about all the problems with lack of translators and cultural insensitivity. (The most recent dust up was over live chicken butchering to cater to the local Hmong community. Zoning variances were denied, keeping the business away.)

Is it culturally insensitive to get a kick out of the name Blong Xiong? Probably...

I am also worried that Democrats are going to be too timid, but I do want them to pay attention to getting reelected as well. The best intentions in the world do no good if you don't follow through with them, but they also do no good if you're not in office to do anything about them, and the power of Democrats is going to be severely limited for the next two years at least (though of course much better than it has been).

In this particular case it does seem the reelection fears are overblown.

Is it culturally insensitive to get a kick out of the name Blong Xiong? Probably...

Probably not as bad as being amused by Wong Wei.

I'm sure that they think that some of our names are silly too.

Yes, but the difference is, we're right and they're wrong.


Good news? (With this administration, I always want to wait for the punchline.)

This article is a little more thorough.

It's a start, but just a start.

This ought to be change-able even under this administration, since it serves no one's interests. But it will be like pulling teeth.

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